Final football notes
Posted at 10:50 p.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
There is no more news to report on the Signing Day front, but I did want to wrap up with a couple of roster moves.
Linebacker Michael Schwindel and defensive tackle Josh Minton will forgo the remainder of their college careers due to injuries.
Schwindel, a redshirt junior, will forgo his fifth year of eligibility because of a shoulder injury. Minton, a sophomore, has battled recurring knee problems and doctors determined playing football could affect his long-term health.
Both will finish up their careers at UK on medical scholarships.
And finally, I just wanted to let everybody know that the feedback today for the live interactive blog was unbelievable. We had nearly 2,500 different viewers join the four-hour blog today and the comments were great.
As many of you all likely know, we weren’t able to get around to answering some of the questions for several reasons. First of all, because of NCAA rules and regulations, we cannot comment on a player before he has signed, nor can we post comments on our site about them. Also, because we had so many questions coming in at the same time and only a limited time with each coach, we could only get to so many questions.
However, I hope nobody was discouraged if they weren’t able to get their comment or question in – there will be plenty of other opportunities on upcoming live blogs to get your voice heard. The coaches absolutely loved the chance to talk to the fans so I’m hoping we can continue to do live chats like todays on a more regular basis.
If you didn’t get a chance to join during the morning and want to see what guys like Joker Phillips, Steve Brown and Randy Sanders had to say about the 2009 recruiting class, check out the replay of the blog below.
Winning on the field is paying dividends on the recruiting trail
Posted at 6:38 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I'll be the first to tell you that some of the kids UK Coach Rich Brooks has brought in are huge steals. There is no denying that Brooks has landed some major talent in this 28-man recruiting class.
But the biggest thing I took out of it is what winning does for a program. It's a cure all.
Imagine four or five years ago what it was like for the UK coaching recruiting staff to recruit. There has always been a list of reasons why to attend UK to play football, but without winning, it was certainly harder for Brooks and Co. to get the best recruits to come to Lexington.
Fast forward three bowl wins later and it's pretty clear that winning attracts bigger recruits, which in turn brings more winning.
"Obviously, winning helps open doors," Brooks said. "Before we were selling the vision of trying to get things done and now we are able to sell the reality. We continue to sell the dream and vision of getting even better and competing for an SEC Championship and going to BCS bowl games."
And that's the reality now at UK. Winning is expected, and often times that's the No. 1 selling point.
"We were in more homes but we still didn't forget what got us here and that was evaluating talent no matter how many stars they have by their name," Brooks said.
UK won't be leaving the ranks of the best teams in the country if it continues to land classes like the past few years, and the Wildcats have the plan in place to keep the success going for years to come.
Brooks admitted on Wednesday that he couldn't even guarantee he'll be around when this recruiting class graduates, but naming Joker Phillips the coach-in-waiting has shown recruits that the same goal for UK will be here long after Brooks decides to take off the headset.
"I think that at least the negativity of (a coaching change) is a moot point now because there is no question about, if and when I do step down, that the system isn't going to change and the continuity will be here," Brooks said.
Phillips, Randy Sanders - who is in his last year as recruiting coordinator - and the rest of the UK coaching staff have the continuity in place to keep the program going in the right direction. That, looking back, is one of the biggest positives to take out of today - the fact that recruiting classes like this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Without guys like Sanders, Brooks said he wouldn't have been able to land guys like Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton.
"The quality of the coaches that I have on this staff is as good as I have been around," Brooks said. "Not only can they evaluate but they can recruit and coach and communicate with the athletes they are dealing with. This staff deserves an enormous amount of credit for the work they have done not only with the recruiting staff but for the last several years."
That's why we can expect recruiting classes like this for at least the near future. UK put a plan in place to succeed and to make sure it succeeded in the long term. Recruits have taken notice of that, Sanders said.
"Just from the sheer fact that of all the young men I dealt with in December and January and even going back into the fall, (the coaching change) was never brought up," Sanders said. "It was a non-issue."
On Signing Day 2009, there were few, if any issues. Did UK get all the recruits it wanted and/or planned for? We'll never know. But with yet another banner class headed to Lexington, one can only see that winning and recruiting have gone hand in hand.
"To me it's just another step in the process of trying to build a program," Brooks said. "Kentucky has had blips of success, blips of success and then fallen back and fallen back. We don't want to fall back, and this class should put this program in great shape moving forward."
For now, I'm finally headed home for a little break. I'll have one final post later on tonight on just a few housecleaning issues. Thanks for keeping up with us today.
The skinny on the 2009 recruiting class
Posted at 5:46 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
To little surprise, another crazy - and busy - Signing Day not only at UK but across the country has nearly come and gone. At last count, UK inked 28 recruits in all for the 2009 football season.
One could probably write about 20 pages of information on everything that transpired today, what position each recruit plays, where they're from, what they're rated, etc., but since we've got the bios of each player on the football homepage and you heard from the assistant coaches earlier, I thought I'd give you all the essentials from the one person we haven't heard from yet - UK Coach Rich Brooks.
Brooks held a news conference at 3 p.m. to talk about a class that he said is "clearly the best class we've had since I've been here."
One indication of the type of class Brooks and his recruiting staff signed this year is the class rankings. If you're an avid follower of recruiting Web sites that rank players, you'll surely notice, as Brooks mentioned this afternoon, that there are certainly more so-called "stars" behind each player's name than in years past.
Brooks has brought in highly touted guys in quarterbacks Ryan Mossakowski and Morgan Newton, signed a heralded local product in Sam Simpson and inked an established wide receiving threat in junior-college transfer Chris Matthews.
Undoubtedly, Brooks was pleased with not only the talent, but the numbers and depth he was able to bring in. But the one thing he cautioned everybody on Wednesday afternoon was to not overlook some of the guys who don't have all the stars behind their names.
"There are probably more stars behind their names than in some of the past classes, but I will again remind some that a couple of guys that played pretty well for us by the names of Wesley Woodyard and Trevard Lindley had two or less stars when they came in here," Brooks said.
The headliners were Mossakowski and Newton, both of whom are rated in the top 25 to top 15 by just about all the major recruiting services. Mossakowski threw for 6,834 yards and 49 touchdowns over his final three seasons at Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas, and would have likely thrown for more had he not suffered a shoulder injury. Newton meanwhile racked up 1,938 passing yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with 1,664 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior.
"(They) give the University of Kentucky the No. 1 quarterback recruiting class in the nation," Brooks said.
Based on what Brooks and his staff have seen, he believes both can come in and compete for the quarterback job, but he made sure to mention that it's about more than just how well they can throw the ball.
"It's how well they assimilate the offense, the reads, picking out the coverages, understanding the protections," Brooks said.
But with Mike Hartline, Randall Cobb, Will Fidler and now Mossakowski and Newton at the quarterback position, how did Brooks pull off landing two of the nation's best high school signal callers?
"We were fortunate enough to be in the process with a couple of guys that were not afraid of competition," Brooks said. "They have enough confidence in their own ability that they weren't afraid to come in when the other one was committed."
But the duo of Mossakowski and Newton is just a sprinkle of the talent UK got this year.
Brooks was particularly impressed with the amount of playmakers and speed they landed this year in addition to the big offensive and defensive linemen they landed to compete in the treacherous Southeastern Conference.
DeQuin Evans out of Harbor College in Los Angeles will likely shore up a void on the defensive line and Sam Simpson of Henry Clay High School was one of the top rated offensive lineman in the nation.
One recruit the Wildcats signed that Brooks has never seen anything like is running back Jonathan George out of Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Ala. George won a state championship in wrestling and in the 400-meter dash.
Brooks said it's an unusual combination and he believes George's best football is still ahead of him.
"I've never had a wrestler/sprinter ever in my life," Brooks said. "I'm not sure I've ever hear d of it."
The Wildcats also brought in another pair of running backs (Donald Russell and Dakotah Tyler), and out of the three, Brooks said one or two of them could see playing time right away.
One of the bigger things that stood out when roster of recruits came out was the size of the wide receivers that are headed to Lexington in the fall. Five physical wide receivers (Brian Adams, Justin Bean, Anthony Kendrick, LaRod King and Matthews) will join UK next season and not a single of them stands shorter than 6-foot-2.
"We wanted to get talented receivers and talented and big is always better than talented and small," Brooks said. "We did feel like we had to upgrade our size at receiver a little bit with the success Stevie Johnson had, who wasn't quite that tall but was a big receiver for us at the time, and Jacob Tamme having played tight end and flexing out in the slot."
Physical was the theme for the trio of linebackers (Qua Huzzie, Tristian Johnson and Ryan Mosby) that will join UK this upcoming season. Brooks emphasized the need to continue to upgrade UK's speed in the fastest conference in America, and the Wildcats appear to have landed a combination of physicality and quickness in the middle of the defense.
"They are very, very athletic and very physical and explosive," Brooks said. "When they tackle you, you know you've been tackled."
Brooks talked about much, much more, but I wanted to give you a quick rundown of some of the highlights of what Brooks had to say this afternoon, which I'll address in my next post. Until then, keep an eye out on the latest from Cat Scratches and UKAthletics.com.
Signing Day live blog
Signing Day Coverage, AKA the official list of confirmed signees